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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Royal Danish Ballet's Andreas Kaas: Reflections on NBOC

Royal Danish Ballet's Andreas Kaas was in Toronto on exchange with the National Ballet of Canada for Nutcracker. The NBOC interviewed him before (click here:
and after. Below he talks about his role as an Icicle in James Kudelka's Nutcracker, which I saw him perform.
I was also lucky to see him with the "Soloists and Principals of the Royal Danish Ballet Bournonville Celebration" in New York this past week, and I can tell you, he is one to watch, with spectacular technique, undeniable star quality and an immense joy in dancing. Every year I put a Copenhagen trip on my schedule, and it was announced in New York that the RDB is looking at another Bournonville Festival (a top Ballet Bucket List item) for 2018, so do let me know if you're interested in coming to Copenhagen some time to see their remarkable dancers, about whom Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times says: "The rush of happiness that keeps flooding the theater is so pure that it may well bring tears to the eyes; it did to mine, more than once Tuesday, the opening night.The skill and charm with which these performers put across this choreography is glorious to behold."

Andreas Kaas

Dancer Exchange: Andreas Kaas
As part of a dancer exchange, Andreas Kaas (above right) from The Royal Danish Ballet came to Toronto for six weeks to rehearse and perform The Nutcracker with The National Ballet of Canada.
What were your first impressions?
In some ways I felt I knew what to expect – the life of a dancer includes daily class, rehearsals and performances. But there were some differences I noticed right away: at home our school, studios and theatre are all in the one building. I’ve spent the last 13 years of my life there and it really feels like home. Here the school is separate altogether, and there are different rehearsal and performance buildings. Also, at the Walter Carsen Centre there is one dressing room for men and one for women, and all ranks from Principal to Corps share that room. For performances all the dancers move to a multitude of rooms at the Four Seasons Centre. I’m used to sharing a dress room every day, all year, with just one other person. But part of the purpose of this exchange was for me to get out of my comfort zone, go somewhere different and have new experiences. Although I was nervous when I first arrived, and felt that people would be assessing me critically, I felt that everyone at the National Ballet was very open and welcoming.

What was the most memorable part of The Nutcracker for you?
Dancing as an Icicle in the Snow trio was so different from anything else I’ve danced. In a pas de trois for two men and one woman, the level of complexity is greater as is the degree of trust required, not just with a female partner but also between me and the other male. I thought it was fortunate that Félix Paquet and I were both new to the parts and as a result we were both discovering our way together. We were also lucky to work with Alexandra MacDonald as our Snow Queen. She has done the part before so her experience, confidence and suggestions made it easier for us. Our second full rehearsal was on the stage, with full costumes, sets and lighting, and with both a photographer and donors in the audience. But it was the best thing to get out there, throw ourselves into it and to learn from it. Overall we ended up performing in more shows than originally expected, which was exhausting but a lot of fun. It was one of the most satisfying parts I’ve danced.

How did you find audiences in Toronto?
There is a great audience here in Toronto! When I was here for the Erik Bruhn Competition, I thought the audience was so excited and involved because it was an intimate competition and a special evening. But every day of The Nutcracker the audiences were eager and responsive. I told my mother and brother, who flew here for Christmas, and my uncle and his family who came down from Barrie, how unique and important The Nutcracker is here. In fact, ballet seems to be a valuable part of culture here – everywhere I went as I explored the city I saw something about the National Ballet.
What are you taking away from the dancer exchange?
I felt this has been the best experience of my life so far. It has been a true pleasure and privilege to be immersed in a new situation like this. It has taught me a lot about myself in terms of how I work and the support systems I am fortunate to have at home but could create for myself in a new place too. I have grown incredibly from this wonderful experience. After the intensive schedule of performances, and the great people who are here, I really feel a part of the National Ballet. I’m going to miss it. But I’m also eager to go home and appreciate the wonderful opportunities I have there. Overall, I feel much more prepared to tackle new challenges. I’m keen to do something like this again. And I’d love to come back again too.
Andreas Kaas backstage
"Arabian coffee" with Tanya Howard (l.)

Corps de Ballet member Emma Hawes will be leaving shortly to dance with The Royal Danish Ballet in a new production of Swan Lake. What advice do you have for her?
I’m so excited for her to come to Copenhagen. I want to show her where I come from and introduce her to my friends and colleagues at the Royal Danish. I’m proud of my company and we will make her feel at home and ensure she has a great experience. My advice is not to be nervous, but to come with an open mind and a sense of adventure.

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